Craftsman drive/steer issue
New to this forum, first post. I have a Craftsman 31AH5WTG799 26” snowblower with steering control that was gifted to me when my grandfather passed. It has run fine for several years, but it started acting up in the last storm with about a foot of snow on the ground. It was a mix of powdery snow and some wet packed stuff from the plows. I got about halfway done and the wheels started locking up. I could shift into a different gear and muscle it a bit to get it to start moving again, but I had to wrestle with it quite a bit. I could hear some squeaking while it wasn’t moving. I also noticed that the right wheel would start to spin when I pulled the right steering lever. I could not roll the machine in reverse freely as I have always done, instead I had to shift into reverse to get it to back up.
I stood it up on the auger housing and pulled the panel this morning to check the belts and friction plate. Everything looked ok underneath as far as the friction plate and drive belt are concerned, although I did see some rubber shavings. The drive lever cable had quite a bi of slack, so I tightened it up. The strangest part is I found the the wheels only move freely when the steering levers are engaged. This seems completely backwards as the manual states the you pull the steering levers to stop the wheels and turn, and the wheels should turn freely when neither steering levers nor drive lever is engaged. Any ideas? I’ve seen a few similar issues posted, but no answers. Thanks in advance.